The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) has recommended that the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) within the Department of Commerce be selected to conduct Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Space Traffic Management (STM) duties, including IT and data-related aspects of those functions.

Along with OSC being responsible for this mission, a NAPA Panel would endorse the decision of the Secretary to elevate OSC to the Office of the Secretary, should the Secretary deem it necessary.

“The Panel also requests that the Congress enact authorizing legislation without delay to ensure that OSC has the requisite on-orbit authorities that would allow it to promulgate STM regulations for operations that fall outside the current licensing and continuing supervision framework,” NAPA said in a report. “The Congress was also asked to provide the Department of Commerce with a mixture of appropriated funds and authority to assess and employ fee-for-service to build out the office as needed.”

The report is part of the directives set forth by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020, and in connection with that NAPA had been tasked with:

  • Assessing which agency or departments, and entities within, are best suited to manage space traffic;
  • Defining any statutory regulatory, or licensing authorities are needed to facilitate such a transfer or responsibilities;
  • Identify funding implications of a transfer, such as infrastructure and personnel costs;
  • Consult with appropriate officials governmentwide, industry figures, and other key stakeholders; and
  • Account for data integrity, IT, and national security considerations incumbent upon a transfer.

Through its assessment, a NAPA Panel found various competencies to conduct commercial SSA and STM duties. To properly execute these duties, an agency or department must be prepared to work with private sector and other stakeholders, and to support the necessary technical and operational requirements.

“The Panel further found that basic SSA/STM data are a public good and require a dedicated government entity to disseminate data associated with those services that are necessary to both spaceflight safety and the bolstering of premium services developed by the private sector,” the report said.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.